Second study confirms the effectiveness of SOS using a larger and more diverse sample
The SOS Signs of Suicide® program for high schools continues to be the only universal
school-based suicide prevention program to show a reduction in suicidal behavior in a randomized
controlled study, according to an article in BMC Public Health. Moreover, this time the beneficial
effects of SOS were observed among high school-aged youth from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
This research expands and confirms the results of a first year study that examined the effectiveness
of the Signs of Suicide (SOS) prevention program in reducing suicidal behavior.
“What makes SOS unique among suicide prevention programs is that, to date, it is the only universal
school-based program to have shown significant reductions in suicidal behavior in a randomized study.
This article extends previous research by showing SOS to be effective among diverse groups of high
school-aged youth in the United States -- among students of different ages, races and ethnic backgrounds,
and for both boys and girls” says study lead author Robert Aseltine, Ph.D. of the University of Connecticut
Dr. Aseltine studied nine high schools in Western Massachusetts, Hartford, CT and Columbus, GA with a
total of 4133 students. The students were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups.
Self-administered questionnaires were completed by students in both groups approximately three months
after program implementation.
The researchers observed significantly lower rates of suicide attempts as well as greater knowledge
and more adaptive attitudes about depression and suicide. Students’ race/ethnicity, grade, and gender
did not alter the impact of the intervention on any of the outcomes assessed in this analysis.
"This study highlights the effectiveness of SOS as a universal prevention program that can be
successfully implemented in a variety of schools” says Dr. Aseltine.
The SOS Signs of Suicide program is a depression awareness and suicide prevention program that
can be implemented in one or more classroom periods by existing school staff. The program teaches
students who are already feeling depressed or suicidal that help is available and directs them to
where they should turn for this help within the school system. Often, students who are feeling
depressed do not realize that what they are experiencing is depression and that it is a medical
condition that can be treated. The overarching goal of the SOS program is to train students to
recognize the signs of depression and empower them to intervene when confronted with a friend who
is exhibiting these symptoms, or to get help for themselves.
Each school participating in the program receives a kit with materials and training instructions.
The program focuses on two of the most prominent risk factors for suicidal behavior: underlying
mental illness, particularly depression, and use of alcohol. It combines two suicide prevention
strategies into a single program: a curriculum that aims to educate and raise awareness of suicide
and its related issues, and a brief screening for depression and other risk factors. Educational
materials are provided for school personnel and parents, as well.
Suicide among young people is one of the most serious public health problems facing the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2004 suicide was the third leading
cause of death for youth aged 15 to 19. Although school based programs have been the principal vehicle for
youth suicide prevention efforts for over two decades, few have been systematically evaluated.
SOS is a program of the non-profit organization Screening for Mental Health, Inc. The program was
developed with assistance from, and is sponsored by, leading organizations of school based professionals
including the National Association of School Psychologists, American School Counselor Association, National
Association of School Nurses, National Association of Secondary School Principals, among others.
To learn more about the SOS Suicide Prevention Program, or to register, go to
To read the SOS replication study, visit